2008 Portability Study: Portability rules

Seventy-five percent of operators are looking to grow their grab-and-go business.

“In the last three years, the numbers have been trending downward a bit,” she says. “Our total meals for the system are up, so students are going [back] a little more to the dining halls, rather than takeout.”

Despite growing concerns about the role packaging plays in adding to the waste stream, plastic and foam still rule when it comes to portable foods. On average, 60% of respondents said they use plastic wrap or containers. Fifty-three percent offer foam containers, 49% use plastic clamshells, 48% use plastic salad bowls with clear lids and 42% use paper containers.

Only 28% offer biodegradable containers, with colleges and universities (47%) most likely to make such packaging available. Only 15% of schools make use of biodegradable packaging.

Pricing, of course, is one issue with biodegradable packaging. But some operators say it is becoming less expensive to buy such materials. Martha Jefferson’s Boucher noted her department was given administration’s blessing to purchase more environmentally-friendly packaging as prices began to inch closer to what it costs for other types of portable packaging.

Some operators and food management companies are looking to deal with the packaging issue by making reusable bags, which customers can then carry with them whenever they want food to go. Aramark, for example, rolled out its “Grab and Go Green” bags at B&I accounts on Earth Day.

But perhaps the most interesting approach to packaging can be found at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where Dining Services is using containers with aluminum bottoms.

“We partnered with an environmental residence academic program,” explains Amy Beckstrom, director of Dining Services. Every year they study a different component of dining services. Their recommendation, after looking at foam versus plastic versus paper, was that we should use aluminum-bottomed grab-and-go containers.”

Beckstrom likens the new containers to the old TV dinner-style packaging. She says the program studied the carbon footprint made by manufacturing and recycling the aluminumware and found that it was smaller than other types of packaging.

“We may have the ugliest containers out there, but we do market that fact, saying, ‘This is why you’re seeing these types of containers.’ We serve everything in them; we eliminated Styrofoam and clamshell containers.”

Beckstrom adds the department also offers customers reusable bags.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is adding an additional $200 in dining dollars to each student's dining plan this fall, The GW Hatchet reports.

The boost comes just a year after the university switched to an open-format dining plan that allows students to spend their entire meal fund off campus; allowed venues include about 90 grocery stores and restaurants.

While students support the new plan, they are concerned about dining affordability. In conjunction with discounted meal deals that were implemented last semester, school officials hope the extra $200...

Ideas and Innovation
breakfast restaurant food

This March, past FSD of the Month Randy Lait and his team gave the FoodService Director staff a tour of the operations at North Carolina State University. During our visit, Randy shared how data is affecting their menu creation and menu mix. At the university, they’re encouraging chefs to use big data—and not just gut feelings—to inform menu decisions.

Every foodservice operator wants to offer more contemporary items in order to please their customer base and keep chefs challenged and engaged. Many chefs make those decisions based on their own tastes, or what’s exciting them at the...

Ideas and Innovation
french press

While a French press isn’t a tool found in most noncommercial kitchens, operators might want to think twice about multiple uses for this fancy coffee maker. Staff at the Hard Rock Cafe are using the French press to muddle fruit and alcohol for their mixed drinks, while at Chicago bar Moneygun, bartenders use a French press to blend spices and tea for hot toddys.

Ideas and Innovation
student food tray

Stories of students who can’t pay for lunch being given a subpar meal or shamed for their debt have proliferated in recent years, and it’s not an uncommon problem. The SNA’s 2016 School Nutrition Operations Report found that about three-quarters of school districts had an unpaid student meal debt at the end of last school year, an increase from 71% of districts reporting debt in 2014.

Government has begun to take action. In April, the USDA issued new regulations mandating that schools implement unpaid meal policies by the start of the 2017-18 school year and clarifying that schools...

FSD Resources